One of Bolton’s Labour Party branches has been thrown into chaos amid claims secret ballots could be ‘compromised’ and mass resignations.

Arguments have centred around the selection of the next candidate to stand for election as the area’s MP with nine of the 13 members of the party’s local executive resigning last week in protest at a ‘clique in London’ trying to promote a candidate against their wishes.

Now the party has been hit by further allegations that postal votes for the candidate have been ‘compromised’ because voting packs allegedly do not contain ballot envelops.

A statement seen exclusively by the Bolton News said: “Therefore the secrecy of members voting records is severely compromised.

“The integrity of any ballot is reliant on adherence to procedures and guidelines.

The Bolton News: The process is aimed at selecting the next Labour candidate for Bolton North EastThe process is aimed at selecting the next Labour candidate for Bolton North East (Image: Newsquest)

“All active party members would be aware of the ballot process for local and parliamentary elections whereby the secrecy of the opening of ballot papers is carefully monitored for any breach of electoral law.

“Our own internal party systems should have the same rigorous quality control.”

This comes just days after the resignation of nine members of Bolton North East Labour’s executive panel.

The Bolton News understands one of the issues which angered the committee was the absence from the list of chair of North West Labour, Leigh Drennan, who they believe was prevented from standing.

Mr Drennan had been endorsed by Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner and several unions for the candidacy.

A statement signed by the nine members said: “Following the announcement of the long-list for Bolton North East, we now lack confidence in the integrity of the Labour Party’s selection process and as such have collectively resigned from the selection committee and the executive positions we hold.

"Yet again it appears that the Labour Party is seeking to promote the views and attitudes of a clique in London, rather than local members in the north.

“This goes against the attitude necessary to win back the Red Wall, which is so desperately needed to deliver a Labour government.

“We hope Labour members and representatives from across the party now also voice their support for fair processes overseen by local members.”

The statement was signed by Bolton North East chair Tony Shepherd, vice chairs Fiona Hill and Karen Hon and secretary Bernadette Gallagher.

It was also signed by policy officer John Reehill, equalities officer Safwaan Patel and branch delegates Francesca Platt, Phil Roberts and James Tibbits.

The final three candidates to contest the seat are Kirith Entwistle, Mayor of Bolton Cllr Akhtar Zaman, and Bolton Council shadow cabinet spokesperson for stronger communities Cllr Rabiya Jiva.

The winning candidate will be selected after a final round of hustings on Sunday February 19 and will go up against incumbent Conservative MP Mark Logan in the next general election.

Mr Logan was elected by a margin of less than 500 votes in 2019 and the next election will have to be held at some point before the end of 2024.

But Labour officials say that the process is in place to ensure 'high calibre' candidates.

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A Labour Party Spokesperson said: "We’re really pleased to have three fantastic candidates on the shortlist with strong connections to the local community.

"Thanks to Keir Starmer's leadership, the Labour Party has put in place robust due diligence processes so that candidates are of the highest calibre.

"Keir believes that the public have a right to know that everyone we put forward at election time is of a high standard."